What Attracts Mosquitoes
Maybe it’s you, or maybe it’s a dear friend, who always seems to be covered in angry mosquito bites when everyone else escapes unscathed. What attracts mosquitoes to these poor victims while others are barely touched?
There are hundreds of types of mosquitoes, and while each packs a painful, itchy bite of its own, they tend to vary in their intensity and patterns.
Why Do Mosquitoes Bite Certain People?
When mosquitoes are searching for a host to bite, they tend to look for a few different factors. They are initially attracted to you by the carbon dioxide you exhale, as well as your body heat and the smell of your skin.
Only female mosquitoes bite, and only when they are seeking the protein from your blood to lay eggs. Other times, mosquitoes feed on the sugars from plants. A common misconception is that mosquitoes are drawn to people with “sweet” blood, but this has little meaning. Mosquitoes are attracted to you based on your scent, which is mostly out of your control. Everything from your genes to your blood type can affect your scent and overall attractiveness to mosquitoes.
What Blood Type Do Mosquitoes Like?
Some studies have suggested that blood type, in particular, type O, can determine whether mosquitoes are attracted to you. If you have type O blood, you are around eighty-three percent more likely to be bitten by a mosquito.
Most people secrete a chemical signal indicating their blood type; in fact, over eighty percent of the population does this. Mosquitoes are naturally more attracted to people who secrete their blood type than those who do not.
Mosquitoes Attraction To Breath
Female mosquitoes are exceptionally gifted at smelling and detecting carbon dioxide. You exhale carbon dioxide every time you exhale, and mosquitoes have been known to detect it from over one hundred and fifty feet away. Those who exhale more, such as large individuals or pregnant people, tend to be bitten more often by mosquitoes.
This fact gives credence to the notion that children are typically bitten much less often than adults. Men, too, are more commonly bitten than women, because they are usually larger and as a result emit more carbon dioxide. Mosquitoes have evolved to sense humans from the smell of their breath, and are therefore more likely to seek out larger hosts.
Your Scent, Sweat, and Genetic Makeup
There are over four hundred chemical compounds on human skin, all of which can play a crucial role in whether you tend to attract mosquitoes. This mix is then influenced by bacteria and sweat, giving each person their own personal scent. A person’s scent is usually dependent on genetics, but diet, activity, and personal makeup can also play a role.
Mosquitoes need water in order to breed, so they are naturally attracted to wet areas like your skin when you sweat. Sweat also contains lactic acid. Exact quantities vary depending on the person, but mosquitoes such as Aedes aegypti are especially attracted to the sweat you release when you are exercising.
What attracts mosquitoes most to you lies in your genetics. Your genetics influence everything from your blood type and scent to even your body temperature and metabolism. Therefore, much of what makes mosquitoes bite you is entirely out of your hands.
Other odors that are known to attract mosquitoes include uric acid and ammonia. They also look for areas where bacteria congregate. Having lots of bacteria, but diverse types of bacteria, on your skin makes you less attractive to mosquitoes. This explains why mosquitoes tend to bite your feet, ankles, hands, and wrists–these are usually exposed areas that collect moisture and bacteria.
What Colors Attract Mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes are most attracted to dark colors, as they use their limited sense of sight to locate targets from far away. Be careful wearing dark colors, as this will make you a direct target. In addition, dark colors will make you warmer, increasing the amount of sweat and heat you produce.
The Company You Keep
Some studies have suggested that mosquitoes are more likely to bite when you are in a large group of people. The reasoning for this is simple. More people equals higher temperatures, more movement, and more exhaled carbon dioxide. Mosquitoes are attracted to all of these factors, so being in a group simply amplifies the effect.
Mosquitoes And Pregnancy
Pregnant women exhale more carbon dioxide than other people and also have higher body temperatures and blood circulation. As a result, expectant mothers are about twice as likely to be bitten by mosquitoes. If you are pregnant, be sure to take proper preventative measures against mosquito bites, as some can carry diseases that are detrimental to a fetus.
Your body temperature, which is influenced by your metabolism, can affect how often you are bitten by mosquitoes. The higher your temperature is, the quicker you will be discovered by mosquitoes.
Are Mosquitoes Attracted To Alcohol?
It has been suggested that drinking beer, for example, can attract mosquitoes. Alcohol makes your skin give off a particular odor that draws in mosquitoes. It also increases your overall body temperature, making you more attractive and likely to be bitten. Beer and other types of alcohol can also increase the amount of ethanol you excrete in sweat.
Some studies have also suggested that mosquitoes are attracted to potassium and salt. Foods like bananas, avocados, potatoes, and dried fruit are all high in potassium and can attract unwanted attention from hungry mosquitoes.
Perfume and Other Scented Body Products
While all fragrances can attract mosquitoes, those containing floral tones are most attractive. Although mosquitoes are also attracted to individuals who smell poorly and exhibit poor hygiene, scented shampoos, perfumes, and other toiletries can produce the opposite effect by making you just as attractive to mosquitoes. Bathe regularly to reduce lactic acid and bacteria build up on your skin but avoid scented products.
What Else Attracts Malaria Spreading Mosquitoes
Interestingly, mosquitoes that spread malaria are attracted to Limburger cheese. The bacteria contained within this type of cheese are close relatives of the ones that live between our toes. The takeaway? These mosquitoes are attracted to smelly feet.
Some people believe that mosquitoes are attracted more to specific body parts like joints. While mosquitoes are more likely to bite hands, feet, and other extremities (largely because they are usually uncovered and teeming with bacteria), they are not more likely to bite your joints. Joints have more nerve endings than any other spot on your body, making a bite on the elbow itchier and more annoying.
Treating The Bites
If you do get bitten, don’t scratch. This will irritate the area and make it itchier. Instead, place a cool compress on the area and consider applying a tea bag, which has an astringent effect. You can also take an antihistamine, like Benadryl, to help counteract the allergic reaction.
Some people are naturally more sensitive to mosquito bites than others, just as some people are more likely to be bitten. If you are unlucky enough to be one of these people, take comfort in knowing that you aren’t alone. There is plenty you can do to help combat the onslaught of mosquito bites this summer. While you can’t control your blood type, genetics, or sweat, you can take steps to limit your attractiveness to mosquitoes, such as showering regularly to remove bacteria and lactic acid, and foregoing scented lotions.